Mayoral Profile: Hilary Calvert

What do you know about the nine candidates who are contesting Dunedin's mayoral campaign in the 2013 local body elections? Today, in the first part of a nine-part series, Chris Morris puts the questions to Hilary Calvert.

<b>Hilary Calvert</b><b>Age:</b> 58.<br><b>Family/marital status:</b> Married, three children.<br><b>Occupation:</b> Non-practising lawyer.<br><b>Council experience:</b> None.&l
<b>Hilary Calvert</b><b>Age:</b> 58.<br><b>Family/marital status:</b> Married, three children.<br><b>Occupation:</b> Non-practising lawyer.<br><b>Council experience:</b> None.<br><b>Running for:</b> Mayor and council.
Former Act New Zealand MP Hilary Calvert says the Dunedin City Council needs to get out of the way and focus on helping business succeed.

Ms Calvert, who is standing for mayor and a council seat, said the city needed financial minds around the council table, particularly with an influx of new councillors expected after October 12.

The city needed to better understand its own finances before deciding how best to spend its money, beginning with Wall Street's value and including the earning potential of the council's companies, she said.

Ms Calvert was standing after a brief stint in Parliament, replacing former Act MP David Garrett, but hoped to draw support from Dunedin's business community.

Why are you standing?

I'm standing because I'm concerned that ... if I and other like-minded people weren't standing, the next council ... [would not] have the finances of the city either under control or as a priority. And I think the people of Dunedin do have rates and finances and business as a priority - business as in jobs.

What are the major issues facing the city now?

Finances that are unknown, but what we do know is that they're out of control. Rates are going up faster than inflation by a long way. In the last nine years, for example, the CPI, on which a lot of people live ... [has] gone up 25%, and the rates have gone up over 70%. We just can't keep doing that.

The council does an annual budget in public and publishes an annual report. What's unknown about the finances?

The $100 million or so which is in the endowment fund says that we've got $32.5 million [invested] in Wall Street. We haven't. There's a piece of land there that they're not even acknowledging is there ... so for the endowment fund, we know that's not an accurate figure, because we know that piece of land is missing.

Any other major issues?

Essentially, finances - and that includes rates rises and things out of control - accountability, jobs, and independence, which I think is really important. What we have seen recently is we have had an agenda going on, which is unaccountable financially and it's been captured by a group that Greater Dunedin produces.

You get a couple of them [Greater Dunedin], in an extraordinary move, seriously criticising the submission [on the draft transport strategy] by the Chamber of Commerce, with 1300 members, over 28,000 people employed by them, and two of Greater Dunedin's people are out there, including the mayor, saying they don't know what they are talking about and they haven't read the draft transport strategy properly.

What would you do to address major issues, particularly around council finances and job creation?

What we need to do is start by knowing what we can actually expect our companies to earn - what we have actually got. If we looked at those things we could make sure that we're running things efficiently and that we're not holding on to things that are costing us more than we're earning. Having got to the bottom of that, we then can look at our priorities and see if we've got any money to build bike tracks, or whether we've got any money to do this, that and the other thing. But we've got to start by knowing how much we've got.

Leaders of the city should be responsible financially and should be talking to the employers and saying: 'What's getting in [the] way of you employing that next person?' ... There's all sorts of things it might be, but it's not for me to tell businesses what's getting in their way. It's for us to ask. Once we've asked, it's the council's job to get rid of any impediments they can to people employing the next person.

What is your vision for the city and how would you make it happen?

My vision for the city is for us to all know what position we're in and to have the councillors accountable for the decisions they make.

That doesn't sound like a grand, sweeping vision for what the city might look like in 50 years' time.

Why not?

I think being respectful and accountable to the people is pretty visionary, and quite revolutionary in its own way. How it looks like should be how the people want it, and we're not getting it how the people want it at the moment, because we're not at all responsive to them.

What strengths would you bring as mayor?

I would be prepared to be unashamedly job-orientated. I would be prepared to say that I would balance the needs for keeping the rates down with the needs for having our city vibrant and getting on about its business and being environmentally friendly. I would be prepared to be accountable for what I did. I would not be telling people I could do things that I couldn't do, and I would not be telling people as mayor that I would be going out on a limb and saying I could do things outside of what the council had agreed to and outside of useful consultation. I am bold and fearless.

Has your time in Parliament helped?

I think so, because I think I understand better what you can expect of other people. You can pretend all you like about your visions and things, but some things are doable and some things aren't ... so long as we don't have marginal seats we will never have the sympathy or interest of central government.

What does that experience mean for Dunedin?

Dunedin needs to be a good city on its own. It needs to not whinge to up north about whatever the thing of the moment is. It needs to make its own destiny and it needs to be as frank as it can be about what is possible to do, and to make sure that we do the most important things that are possible.

Are you still a member of Act New Zealand?

I haven't actually looked to find out. I presumably aren't because I don't think I've renewed in the last year.

Would you have any connections to the Act Party as a mayor or councillor?

No. The Act Party is a party of principle, and what most people who have ever been part of the Act Party have is an allegiance to principles from the Act Party, rather than the Act Party.

Will you be promoting Act's policies in Dunedin?

No, I will be promoting Act's principles. Not Act principles, but the principles on which Act was founded. So not because they were Act principles.

Do you still own the building that houses a brothel?

I have part-ownership of a building in which there is a current church, I have part ownership of a building in which there is a brothel, and I have part-ownership of a building in which there is a bank. There's a variety of tenants of buildings in this world. I'm the owner of buildings in which things are carried out. I'm not the owner of a business - either a bank, or a church, or a brothel.

What other community involvement have you had?

Probably the thing I'm proudest of in my life, apart from my family, is the Otago Central Rail Trail. I was in it from when it first started, as a trustee, through to three or four years ago.

It's been done by a lot of volunteer stuff ... it's the way of doing things that I really like. I don't like it when an official body that takes my taxes or my rates says: 'We will do this to you and this is what we'll achieve'. It works much better if you've got proper community involvement.

How are you funding your campaign?

My aunty's given my campaign some money, other people around town have been giving me bits and pieces here and there, and [my husband] Alistair [Broad] and I are funding it partially ourselves.

How much do you expect to spend?

Probably between $10,000 and $15,000 all up.

And how much of that would be your own money?

Probably about $5000. That's just a guess at this point.

How would you describe your politics?

I think when you're using other people's money, especially money you've demanded from them with menaces, that you should be accountable to them, you should be respectful of the money you've taken from them, and you should do the best thing, in the best way, to achieve what the people have told you they want achieved.

Who do you vote for nationally?

I've probably been fairly much round the block, I think. Hard to know at the moment. Not the Greens, because they're not prepared to pay for what they say they're going to do.

So you're not strictly an Act Party or a right-wing voter?

If I'm anything, I'm a liberal. I think you constrain other people only when necessary for the freedom of us all, and every time you constrain people, the more you constrain them, the more you have to have a really good reason ... if you want people to be free to do what they choose to do, then they have to take responsibility for that as well.

Who are your supporters in this election?

I would say a lot of the business community, and I'd say people who believe that the council is not accountable and hasn't got ... the business of running the council [at heart].

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